Tuesday 28 March 2023 \


France Muslims Plead for Mosques

PARIS - Facing a rarity of mosques and an official ban on street prayers, France's Muslims are pleading for more worship places to accommodate their religious needs.

“We don't want to bother people,” a worshipper told Press TV.

“Friday prayer is vital to Islam and every group deserves to properly practice religion. Here we're still praying on pavement.”

Last month, a ban on street prayers came into effect in the capital Paris.

The ban is also planned to be extended to other heavily-Muslim cities along France's Mediterranean coast.

Following the ban, the government agreed to rent an unused army depot for Muslims to use for prayers.

But Muslims complain that the new building is not fit for prayers.

“This is not a mosque,” said another worshipper.

“But because there is nothing better, we'll wait. But we won't wait forever.”

Street prayers, which see Muslims spreading mats on footpaths, have been a source of debate in secular France.

Last year, far-right leader Marine Le Pen compared Muslim prayers on the streets to Nazi occupation.

France is home to a sizable minority of six million Muslims, the largest in Europe.

French Muslims complain that they lack enough mosques, forcing them to pray on the street.

They have only 1,500 prayer houses, most of which are housed in small, modest halls, often described as "basement mosques."

In Paris, where the Muslim population is denser than elsewhere in France, there is only one grand mosque, the Great Mosque of Paris, far away from immigrant-heavy neighborhoods.


Muslim groups complain of major difficulties in negotiating with French authorities for descent worship places.

“Every mayor in every city could loan a place for Friday prayer until we can fully repay them,” said Hassen Chaighoumi of the French Imams Council.

“But each neighborhood is different: you have right wing mayors who [have] actually helped Muslim communities, and you have left wing mayors who've obstructed our efforts.”
Chaighoumi blames the lack of Muslim political representation for the obstacles facing Muslims in building mosques.

“At the moment, Muslims are not involved in politics,” he said.

“We have no Muslim mayors or leaders of political parties, and very few Muslim parliament members.

“There are political lobbies which block our efforts and there is not the tolerance that we had before 9/11,” Chalghoumi said.

He believes that joint work among French Muslims could help the community build mosques easily.

“If we all worked together, then we could make a real change,” he said.

“But unfortunately we are divided by the problem of nationalism. In France you have Muslims for Morocco, Turkey, Algeria, Mali, Ghana, and many of these nations are meddling in our affairs,” he concluded.

The new ban is not the first controversial move to be taken by French governments.

In 2004, the French government banned hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in state schools, triggering several European countries to follow suit.

France has also passed a law banning face-veil in public places, which came into effect earlier this year.

The current French government held a country-wide debate on national identity in 2009-2010 that preceded the full face veil ban.Many Muslims criticized the debate, saying it turned into a forum to stigmatize them and let people air biased views about Islam.

Source: www.OnIslam.net



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